Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 2, 1859

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 2, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 2, 1859

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10


receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: cnk 

revision: jxw 2021-09-16


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
U.S. Ship of war Macedonian
Sunday morning October 2d 1859
Once more on the Blue Mediterranean half way
to Alexandria – with my face set homeward. A
noble ship, a gallant crew, a fair wind – content
with what I have seen, little as it is of the East,
although compelled to relinquish Constantinople.
It seemed almost a Divine beneficence that the haze of the
morning rolled away and the clouds dissolved so that
from the deck of the ship as I was leaving Jaffa I
saw in the far North East Lebanon with in its great length
and lofty head rise up behind me. Thus I have seen
the sites of the country of Palestine, all its grand outlines
while I have been able to tread the scenes on the
Page 2

of the greatest events in its history. The prevailing sentiment
which I feel on leaving it is that I have verified by observation
the Bible history. I owe I have found it a land far different
from what I looked to see. Although milk and honey
the vine and the olive are found there, it is not a land
of plenty as ab There is no plow no luxuriance, but on
the contrary it is a land of poverty, of want. But it is
nevertheless the land on which the events of scriptural
history might have occurred and the only one – and
none but prophets poets and historians who knew
Judea and Jerusalem

could have recorded them in
the manner and language in which they are set down
in the sacred books. The difference is one of coloring nearly,
a people intensely patriotic natural, ignorant or nearly
so of other lands would write with all the extravagance
of the Jewish authors. It must not be thought strange if
I find the my reverence for the patriarchs and their
system very much abated. It is at best only a rude
beginning of civilization, grossness and licentiousness must
prevail exist in its inner life. Polygamy, Adultery
and the debasement of women must be its principal feature
while ignorance of agriculture and habitual habits mentioned
in the midst of dangers must make me savage and
cruel. Some virtues will grow up in such a system
and will be honored, especially that of Hospitality
Page 3

The Jewish People had beyond a doubt emerged ^ was not ready ^ were
just ready to rise from this system when David triumphing
over their dangerous neighbors on the Plains of Sharon finally
established the Kingdom and Solomon


the City and the Priesthood
They assumed the character of a civilized and consoli-
dated State some afterwards and remmaintained it
until the overthrow of the State by Titus. What is very
remarkable is that the desolation which followed that
ruin only prepared the way for a return to the
old patriarchal system or shepherd paternal system.
The Bedouin Arabs, arabs of the Desert were tribes
affiliated by Kindred and subject to chief like
those of the Ancient Israel. They adopted indeed a
different system, a more gross one than the Jews could
now sustain, but one not essentially different from
that of the original tribes of Israel. They rec in their
turn divided and conquered the Land of Caanan
and they returned the tent life and wandering habits of
the land, and they are at this very day lets its members.
They exact tribute from all who traverse its sacred
places, and they are just now exhibiting the very
predilections which the Israelites manifested three
hundred years ago. Henceforth I shall never be
a sceptic concerning the influences of nature upon society
Since I see the influence of mountain scenery, and
Page 4

sterile rocks on the minds of the Jewish nation in every
psalm of David, in every song of the prophets. "God
came from Teman and the Holy one from Mount Parnan."
"A city set upon a Hill which cannot be hid." The Mount
Sion, and the Mount of Olives – How strange that I could
all my life have read the Jewish books in which
these and other elevations so constantly figure in language
of kinder affection and reverence and yet have expected
to find Jerusalem in a valley, and Judea a land
of meadow and plain.
But I shall never dream hereafter of the restoration
of the ancient Jerusalem and of Judea in a literal sense.
In the very age of their greatness and glory, empire and
commerce, and civilization were traveling Westward as
they have continued to travel ever since. There is only
solitude desolation and mourning for the East,
magnifying always the authority of its religion, but
the advancement of men and the elevation of women are
to be the effected in the ever enlarging regions of the
under the setting sun. Relinquish forever all thought that
the pure intentions of Christ, and his disciples have
left any impress whatever on the people who received
them that that can never be traced These touching letters
of warning to the seven Churches of Philadelphia Laodicea
and the like – have been totally lost here. I doubt
Page 5

whether a virtuous and pure woman educated in our
city can travel through Syria and mingling only with
its Christian population escape influences of contamination
My heart sickens with the thought that missions in all
their forms, from the Mountain Institutions of the early
Churches to the form and spiritual ones of modern
Christian sects are ^have proved^ utterly unavailing to elevate ^even^ one
^Asiatic^ family or Asiatic woman to the level of American
society. Still I would not discourage them. But
for them we could not at this day even visit the
Holy Land in safety. If they do very little apparent
good, it is certain they do no harm. Heaven knows
how much more debased society in Jaffa and in Jerusalem
would be without them. It was Saturday when I left
Jaffa. This was the Sunday of the 7th Day Baptist
Mission, and it was observed as such at there. I was
lodged in the mission and was a witness. Mr
Birth: 1811-05-27 Death: 1876-04-08
and Mrs
Birth: 1815 Death: 1883-05-30
had been in Jaffa four years and had
perfected themselves in Arabic. Ten o,clock was
the hour for public worship. Their proselytes came in
a Jew
, his wife
, and two children
, all cleanly
though rudely dressed. The family with myself
made up the rest of the assembly. A prayer was
made in Arabic, a chapter in the Bible
 Publisher: The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Place of Publication:London, UK Date: 1857
read and
a psalm of Davids song, both in the same language
Page 6

Then a short explanation of the Gospel system in
the same language – and this was the fruit of five years.
I had little faith in the Jews conversion. I thought his
wife seemed to act a contrived part, but the
two young lads appeared to me to ^have^ adopted
sincerely the system which would lift them up as it
might be hoped to a higher and purer state of
Society. They may The young may be made
Christians, but there is little hope of the old.